VfL Wolfsburg’s last dance in muddy shoes (Preview)

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Berlin, April 5 (IANS) Imagine the weird situation when your big day lies ahead of you but your best suit is full of holes, your tie is dirty, your shoes are covered with mud and you have run out of time to get your clothing ready on time. Looking at VfL Wolfsburg, things indeed couldn’t be worse as the Bundesliga side will face one of the most famous clubs in world football in Real Madrid this Wednesday evening.

Losing to Real in the round in the quarter-finals would not mean a catastrophe right now, but it most possibly won’t be the kind of football festival you look forward to. Wolfsburg are the underdogs, no doubt, but worse they are going through a deep crisis and it is clear the current squad has no future. Playing Real in the Champions League could well be the last dance of Wolfsburg in the competition that is a meeting place for Europe’s top clubs for a long time, reports Xinhua.

Last summer Wolfsburg started with the ambition to be among the ones challenging Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund for the German league title. Now, six games before the season ends, the self-proclaimed favourites Wolfsburg have mutated into a grey mouse languishing mid-table having no realistic chance of being a part of the Champions League next year. The poor performance is not even enough to qualify for the Europa League.

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The team “that is no team” (Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking) might possibly perform out of their skin against the Spanish giants, but nobody expects them to be a realistic threat when it comes to beating Madrid. But Wolfsburg could perhaps bloom for one day: Playing with a solid concrete-like defence, giving no space for Real’s fast attackers.

Predictions for the future though are not rosy as most pundits expect the team and club to decline. And next summer coach Dieter Hecking and CEO Klaus Allofs will have to re-structure their squad. Stars like Andre Schuerrle, Max Kruse and others might have to leave. Wolfsburg will have to start right from the very bottom and work their way up to be part of the national and international elite again.

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Additionally, what makes the future also insecure is the unpredictable situation of the club owner, the car manufacturer Volkswagen, which finds himself in a deep crisis after the emission scandal. Some experts expect Volkswagen to cut down its financial support for the club that is situated right next to company headquarters.

Coach Hecking and his team not only have lost contact to the Bundesliga’s top four but seem to have deeper problems within their squad. Recently German international Kruse lost 75,000 euros in cash in a Berlin taxi, presumably after a poker competition. Later he took away the mobile phone of a female tabloid reporter, who was shooting photos of him celebrating his birthday in a Berlin discotheque.

Last week, Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner was fired after club CEO Klaus Allofs called the “enfant terrible” a “threat” for the team spirit.

There are still hopes they will spring a surprise, as the team is accused of loving the big Champions League game rather than daily grind in the league. “Hope is still there,” says Wolfsburg coach Hecking. “I’m sure we’ll see a different team on Wednesday. It’s something that makes me optimistic. But I’ m also in a bad mood, because we don’t seem to be able to play at the same level in the Bundesliga,” said CEO Allofs.

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As Wolfsburg, having made it into the quarter-finals for the first time in club history, will play the “high-light” games against superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo, the general mood couldn’t be worse. That despite the fact that Dutch striker Bas Dost will most likely return to the squad for the Real game as will Brazilian defender Naldo. Both recently returned to full training after long injury breaks. Dost might start on the bench while Naldo would be desperately needed in Wolfsburg’s fragile defense.

Looking at the Real games there are two options for the underdogs. To spring a surprise could give the team a last boost for the remainder of the season. A disaster on the other hand would intensify the crisis and would make things even more difficult.

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